Chamomile is one of the more popular herbal sleep aids. A big part of its popularity may be the fact that it has a more pleasant taste when compared to other similar options. While chamomile is common and very affordable, there are situations where you might be unable to find it. If this is the case, it is far from the only herbal sedative even though it does have some unique qualities. If you need a chamomile substitute — especially if you need one for tea — try one of the options below.
Your best bet: Lemon balm
Lemon balm is a member of the mint family, unlike chamomile. Like chamomile, it delivers a pleasing flavor that lends itself to being infused into a tea. Chamomile and lemon balm are both commonly used as tea herbs as well as in other beverages. Lemon balm is a great ingredient for flavoring cocktails just as chamomile is used to give an apple-like quality to Spanish sherry.
Both herbs originated in southern Europe; both also have a time-tested reputation for quelling anxiety and encouraging sleep, which is why both lemon balm and chamomile teas are traditionally consumed before bed. The flavors differ with chamomile offering an apple-like fruitiness while lemon balm’s flavor notes tend more toward citrus as the herb’s name suggests.
You can use lemon balm to replace all or part of a serving of chamomile. You can use it as a 1:1 substitute for chamomile.
A decent second choice: Passionflower
Passionflower comes from a herb that belongs to the same genus as passion fruit; however, passionflower does not taste like passion fruit. The passionflower herb is made up of the plant’s leaves and stems rather than the fruit. It offers a slightly stronger sedative effect when compared to chamomile. Passionflower is potent enough to be used in clinical settings to relieve anxiety. While chamomile is sweetly aromatic, passionflower’s flavor profile is on the grassy side. The two herbs are often combined in tea to get the therapeutic effects of both and so that chamomile can help to sweeten the flavor of passionflower.
In a pinch: Peppermint
Peppermint is arguably the best-known mint and is great as a flavoring and for medicinal purposes. While it is not as popular for making tea as spearmint, it can provide many of the same benefits as chamomile. Note that peppermint is better known for its ability to improve digestion than for being a sleep aid. If your anxiety or sleeplessness is due to stomach problems, peppermint may be exactly the soothing treatment that you need. Note that it has a much sharper and stronger flavor profile than chamomile. You can use peppermint in combination with chamomile as well as with the other herbs on this list.
Lemon verbena is yet another lemon-scented herb with both digestive and sedative effects. As the name indicates, it has a citrus note that can work as a stand-in for the apple note that you might get from chamomile.
Lavender is a sweet herb that is more commonly associated with French cookery than with tea; however, a lavender tea can have some of the same effects that you want from chamomile. For example, lavender can reduce anxiety and aid sleep.